Read this fun interview with Ify, Founder and Designer at OliveAnkara, where African Wax Prints Meet Modern Designs.
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
What motivates me is essentially one of two things: the first is connection, i.e. my relationship to others: my family, my friends, my clients, and my community. I want to have some impact on their lives. I want to be a contributor to their joy, a solution to their problems, and a tonic to their pain. To be any and all of those things is to fulfil a sense of purpose and self-worth.
The second is curiosity. Curiosity is, I think, both an intellectual and an emotional experience. Thinking and feeling are all the brain does and when I indulge my natural curiosity, I become more informed and emotionally inspired. Every time we satisfy the urge to know and discover, it opens new possibilities for growth, and growth is life. This is what happened with OliveAnkara.
Clearly review your core values. It’s not just about the work and the position itself. Its what's important to you as a person, what fires you up and what gets you out of bed in the morning, to bring you satisfaction. Hold yourself accountable and be willing to accept responsibility and account for your actions.
OliveAnkara, where African Wax Prints Meet Modern Designs.
How and Why did you start you OliveAnkara?
The idea came, as often happens, from a void that needed to be fulfilled. I'll tell you more about this in a while, let me first introduce myself.
I was born and raised in Italy, near Venice, where my parents moved from Nigeria in the early Eighties. I grew up surrounded by Italian people, culture and taste, but my Nigerian roots always played an important role. I have been exposed to African cultures a lot during my youth, especially thanks to the big Nigerian community that grew in Italy during those years. One aspect that always fascinated me when attending family gatherings was the colorful clothing that men and women were wearing. I fell in love with African fabrics, and this love never faded. I finished my studies and did my PHD in Human Molecular Genetics in Italy, then i received an offer to move to Singapore and continue my career in the field of Cancer Research.
Singapore is a great place to experience the very meaning of Melting Pot. Here you can find people of all races and religions. But soon after I moved here, I realised Singapore had a BIG PROBLEM...there was a total lack of African culture! I wanted to find some African fabrics to make my wedding gown, and I couldn't find any! This lack sparked an idea in my mind: "if I can't find any African dress in Singapore, why don't I make it myself?" So I bought some fabrics from Nigeria through a family member, and made a few dresses for myself. I started wearing these dresses and soon realised people were noticing and asking about the origin. So I decided to make some more....This was late 2016.
Bold + Colourful Designs That Celebrate Diversity At OliveAnkara.
What does an average day look like for OliveAnkara?
I start every other day with a small dose of exercise, could be a early morning run or one hour of yoga. My day starts in the lab, my first passion, where I work as a researcher at the National cancer Center (NCC). It will end in my little space of joy, OliveAnkara showroom in Tiong Bahru.
What inspires you?
Seeing people, women fight for what they believe in. Seeing people never giving up, no matter how difficult life can be.
What do you enjoy most with running your own business?
The opportunity of being free and creative as much as I want. I love my space, my little studio were I can create magic.
OliveAnkara Infinity Dresses, Cheongsams, Headwraps, Headbands, Accessories and Sneakers on show at their gorgeous new boutique in Tiong Bharu
Can you tell me about a time when you almost gave up, how you felt about that, and what you did instead of giving up?
To be honest it never happened yet. It was a big step to take for me, working full-time, and having to bear the risk of the business not taking off. But I have faith in what I do, and a lot of support from family and friends. I knew that I just had to start with this little project. Even if it doesn’t work out, it won’t be a failure, because at least I started, at least I tried. I had the courage to take the risk.
What do you are the biggest challenges for OliveAnkara?
Starting a project is a big challenge. I face the same challenges as every business, driving awareness, doing constant research and something new for me, sales.
Beside the biggest motivational challenge is to bring the African culture in every piece of my collections in an updated and relevant way, in order to educate people to another culture through fashion.
You know we must educate people on how to appreciate, understand and embrace people’s culture and I think this is my way to accomplish that. Indeed my dream is to bring people together under the same / one vibrant cloth And together celebrate diversity!
What are the challenges managing a FT career and your Side Hustle?
I think it is very important managing a FT career and the side hustle, although the ability to achieve work life balance is becoming more and more difficult. As I am starting my own business all my free time, energy, free space is dedicate to my new project.
Maintaining work life balance is not only important for my personal health and relationships, but it can also improve the efficiency of my business performance. As young side-preneur we have to understand that there is time for our business, but we also have to dedicate time to our personal life.
What would you like to achieve Professionally in 6 months / 1 year / 5 years?
Like all rising designers, my dream is to hold a runway show somewhere in Asia and to see not only a star also women of all colours wearing one of my designs.
Any advice for talent looking to set up their own hustle?
Never be afraid to follow your passion. Go for it, first do some research. Talk to other people, talk to other designers. Know when to ask for help, and seek assistance when you need it. Do a lot of marketing research. If you have enough passion for your business idea, nothing can stop you. Pursue your dreams and believe in what you are doing.
What is your favourite quote?
It is more a motto that I stand by “No matter how far you go, always remember where you come from.”
Drop by the OliveAnkara showroom to take home a piece of Africa.
Our showroom is located
Check Out www.oliveankara.com